Compaq Changes Its Game Plan

Compaq Computer may take a big step to get a leg up on the competition and bolster its hybrid direct/indirect sales model. A Compaq executive says the company is close to combining its direct and channel sales organizations under one roof, in an attempt to iron out inconsistencies between its dual sales models in North America.

Compaq Computer may take a big step to get a leg up on the competition and bolster its hybrid direct/indirect sales model.

A Compaq executive says the company is close to combining its direct and channel sales organizations under one roof, in an attempt to iron out inconsistencies between its dual sales models in North America.

The proposed change comes at a critical time for Compaq, which is trying to rebound under new CEO Michael D. Capellas and keep pace with Dell Computer.

Already a top name in corporate PCs, Dell is now launching a marketing effort that will target consumer PC buyers. Even before the marketing push, Dell's consumer sales are growing 80 percent annually, according to Dell consumer division VP Janet Mountain.

Eager to enjoy that type of growth, Compaq disclosed portions of its evolving reorganization last week at Ingram Micro's VentureTech Network symposium in Las Vegas. The reorganization would aim to provide a "more cohesive effort" from Compaq's sales teams, says Bob Gregerson, VP of channel alliance partners.

Under the new structure, Direct Plus and Partner Direct will be rolled into Compaq's North American channel organization, which is headed by Mike Pocock. By coincidence, Compaq's channel sales organization was hammering out the restructuring effort down the hall from Ingram's symposium. Hours later, Gregerson discussed the proposed changes to 500 VentureTech resellers. In fact, Pocock originally was slated to address those resellers but was caught up in continuing meetings about sales-organization changes.

If the reorganization moves ahead as planned, it could help alleviate problems that some resellers have encountered with Partner Direct, which has grown faster than Compaq expected. Gregerson says the swift growth made Compaq's response time to partners slower than anticipated.

Resellers are optimistic about Compaq's plans. "This is good news," says Rick Sbrocca, VP and general manager of VentureTech. "It will allow [Compaq] to be considerate to all go-to-market approaches by putting them under one organization."

Still, resellers say privately that Partner Direct was less successful than Compaq hoped, at least partly because resellers didn't want to provide the kind of detailed business information that Compaq was seeking.

"The core competency of resellers is customer-relationship management," says one channel executive who requested anonymity. "That's the bottom line for them. They're the ones that have to maintain control."

Meanwhile, rumors are circulating that Gateway also may refine its sales model. A channel source says Gateway soon may sell a portion of its corporate PC line through distributors. However, a Gateway spokeswoman says the company has no such plans.

Though Gateway does have a growing channel program for resellers, the company has never worked with distributors. The only minor exception involves Gateway's Advanced Logic Research arm, which worked with distributors when it was still an independent company.

Joseph C. Panettieri contributed to this story.

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